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Dot Inlays

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The 12th Fret

Memorizing the name of the notes on the entire fretboard can be a daunting task. A standard guitar has 21 or more frets. That’s 126 or more frets to memorize…
or is it?

Realize that the 12th fret is the same note as the open string. This is called an octave. An octave is the same note at a higher or lower pitch. The 12th fret is always the same note as the string played open. The 12th fret is usually marked by two dot inlays.

Every note after the 12th fret mirrors that of the lower end of the fretboard. The 13th fret is the same note as the 1st fret, the 14th fret is the same note as the 2nd fret and so on. Draw an imaginary line at the twelfth fret so you can see that the 12th fret up is exactly the same notes as the lower part of the fretboard.

Matching The Dot Inlays

Here you can see the guitar fretboard cut in 2 pieces. Laying them side by side you can see how they match up perfectly. On the left is the open strings and first 11 frets. On the right is the 12th fret up with is the exact same notes as the first picture. You can see how the dot inlays match perfectly.

The 3rd fret dot inlay matches the dot inlay on the 15th fret. The dot inlay on the 5th fret matches the one on the 17th fret. The dot inlay on the 7th fret matches the one on the 19th fret. The dot inlay on the 9th fret matches the one on the 21st fret.

Dot Inlay Exercise

Here’s a great way to really drum the dot inlay system in your head. On the high E string play the open string then the octave at the 12th fret. Go up to the first fret play that note and then play it’s octave at the 13th fret. Work your way all the way up the fretboard until you run out of frets. Then do it with the other strings. See tablature example below:

The exercise is performed on the high E string in the audio example below:

Since the notes on the 12th fret and up mirror the notes on the lower end of the fretboard you only need to memorize 72 frets. That makes things a little easier, don’t you think? Plus, realizing this will help you read tab a lot faster. We hope you can now see how the guitar’s dot inlay system works and how important it is to utilize. In the next few segments you’ll learn how to turn learning these 72 frets into child’s play.


If you have a 24 fret guitar, then you’ll have another octave at the 24th fret (usually marked by another double dot inlay). Some guitar manufactures sometimes use different fretboard inlays, but the dot inlay system discussed here is the most common.